Large areas of the Australian continent contain scattered saline lakes underlain by shallow saline groundwaters of regional extent and debated origin. The normative salt composition of subsurface pore fluids extracted by squeezing cores collected during deep drilling at Piangil West 2 in the central Murray Basin in southeastern Australia, and of surface and shallow subsurface brines produced by subaerial evaporation in the nearby Lake Tyrrell systems, helps constrain interpretation of the origin of dissolved solutes in the groundwaters of this part of the continent. Although regional sedimentation in the Murray Basin has been dominantly continental except for a marine transgression in Oligocene-Pliocene time, most of the solutes in saline surface and subsurface waters in the central Murray Basin have a distinctly marine character. Some of the Tyrrell waters, to the southwest of Piangil West 2, show the increase in NaCl and decrease in sulfate salts expected with evaporative concentration and gypsum precipitation in an ephemeral saline lake or playa environment. The salt norms for most of the subsurface saline waters at Piangil West 2 are compatible with the dilution of variably fractionated marine bitterns slightly depleted in sodium salts, similar to the more evolved brines at Lake Tyrrell, which have recharged downward after evaporation at the surface and then dissolved a variable amount of gypsum at depth. Apparently over the last 0.5 Ma significant quantities of marine salt have been blown into the Murray Basin as aerosols which have subsequently been leached into shallow regional groundwater systems basin-wide, and have been transported laterally into areas of large evaporative loss in the central part of the basin. This origin for the solutes helps explain why the isotopic compositions of most of the subsurface saline waters at Piangil West 2 have a strong meteoric signature, whereas the dissolved salts in these waters appear similar to a marine assemblage. ?? 1994.
Additional Publication Details
Sources of dissolved salts in the central Murray Basin, Australia